Kids and Cancer: The World’s Toughest Conversation?
Posted: September 27, 2021
Feeling lost at how to address a cancer diagnosis with a child(ren)? JOIN. THE. CLUB.
Cancer is hard enough for adults to wrap their minds around. Now, we’ve got to attempt explaining it to someone whose brain isn’t even fully formed yet? Yikes!
Nothing can fully prepare you for a conversation this difficult, but your buds are here to try to help you feel a little bit better going into it.
Many kids believed Chadwick Boseman’s death meant the death of their favorite superhero, Black Panther. He and his character were one and the same to them, and the fallout really got us thinking: Children oftentimes idolize other adults in their lives in a similar fashion. They have a tendency to think the people they look up to are invincible. It’s no wonder that cancer happening to someone they love is so unimaginable.
Full disclosure: On top of being confusing AF, talking to kids about cancer can be very emotional. We’re not saying there will always be tears involved, because every child is different. We suggest that you go ahead and grab your Kleenex, though -- just in case!
Are you wondering whether or not you should bring it up at all?
It can be tempting to try to hide the truth from the child(ren) you love. It’s unfair. It’s scary. It’s something that you might feel you aren’t handling very well, even as a “grown up” with a fully formed frontal lobe. The desire to protect their emotions is natural.
However, sometimes we don’t give kids and their spidey senses enough credit! They’re great at figuring things out. You don’t want them to find out you’re sick from someone else or even from overhearing you talk about your treatment. This would ultimately create more tension in your family and anxiety for your favorite kiddo. Figuring out how and when to talk is your first step.
Your next step is getting prepared. Here are a few things to consider:
Your Own State of Mind
No pressure (Who are we kidding? All of the pressure!), but they’ll be watching you now more than ever to see how you’re handling things. If you’re able to lead the way for them as a strong role model and demonstrate healthy coping skills, kids are capable of developing incredible resilience from an early age. You’ll want to go into this conversation as the best version of yourself that you can muster up right now.
We’ve got plenty of resources to help with this: meditation and journaling are two ways to work through anxiety and achieve a calmer mindset. Speaking with your own therapist prior to taking the plunge may also help you feel more prepared.
Think about the child(ren) and all of the factors that could influence how they react to the news.